The real Brexit dividend will be fresh support for Britain’s enterprise economy

John Longworth: John Longworth is co-chairman of Leave means Leave and former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.Imagine the UK became the best place in which to do business in the developed world. A truly enterprise economy, generating wealth and taxes, what could top that? Certainly not membership of the EU.

Suddenly it has become an imperative to turn that into reality and to stop relying on the EU, a “crutch” reached for by a failed political class, some of whom continue to carp from the sidelines, otherwise known as the House of Lords.

Free Trade Arrangements (FTA), are all the rage in the Brexit debate. The negotiation of a FTA with EU would provide some benefit – the sum total of tariffs which the EU could apply to British manufactured goods amount to less than half the UK net annual contribution – and could be said to be the optimal outcome provided we do not give anything away of significance to achieve this.

Correctly, continued membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union has been largely ruled out as these would prevent leaving the EU politically and from an economic standpoint, represent a poorer version of what we had before.

But all of this pales into insignificance compared with our true ability to become an enterprise economy, a journey which is variously prevented and impeded by our membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.

The creation in the next two years of informal “signature ready” FTA’s with trading partners around the world would certainly be desirable as, at the margins, it would ease the flow of goods and services.

The drive to crystallise the other manifest benefits of leaving should be presumed with equal vigour. These will benefit not just the export economy but also the 70% of economic activity that is domestic.

The repatriation of fisheries and the abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy. The investment of our EU net contribution and the better reallocation of our gross contribution. The pursuit of deregulation after Brexit and the objective of removing external tariffs – These latter two alone are worth up to 6% of GDP.

Our leaving also provides simultaneously a unique opportunity and an imperative for the government to create the conditions for an enterprise economy, in which wealth can be created and the winners will pick themselves.

The actual delivery of infrastructure, an ambitious and world beating programme of wireless and fibre connectivity – as opposed to the one we have – adequate access to non equity finance for SMEs, so they can grow, proper support for exports and less emphasis on appropriate, rather than damaging, inward investment.

Vitally, education and training to fill our skills and labour shortages, a responsibility of government but also of corporates.

At last we can replace successive, failed industrial policies with an enterprise policy which will make Britain the best place in which to do business and secure long term economic growth. 


March 6th, 2017: City AM